Music Review: ‘Something Fierce’ by Marian Call

Ever since Dragon*Con earlier this month, I’ve been listening to Marian Call’s Something Fierce CD, which I purchased from the artist herself right after the Parsec Awards ceremony. I first heard her music at the 2010 Parsec Awards, and I eventually bought a couple of her songs from iTunes, including I’ll Still Be a Geek After Nobody Thinks It’s Chic (The Nerd Anthem), which includes a line that I wish I’d written:

I have been a nerd since my first five-syllable word

Brilliance. If you get the chance to hear her perform live, you may get the impression that she does primarily humorous songs (her karaoke song is hysterical.) As I’ve listened to Something Fierce, what has struck me is that these are (for the most part) serious songs, though some are light-hearted. Even some of the light-hearted songs pack some bite:

Well I had a good time sweetheart, that’s for sure
Well I wanna thank you for all your trouble
But if you lose my number now I won’t complain
‘Cause you’re my avocado baby — only only good for one day
‘Cause you’re my sushi baby — only only good for one day

Or this:

Oh, I wish I were a real Alaskan girl
Because I hear that they kick ass
Oh, it’s easy to see why a local woman’s in demand
The guys have to queue up for years to hold your hand
I’d find me some big burly bush pilot boy
I would hook and reel him in and fiancé him
But if he ever double-crossed me or tried to do me wrong
I wouldn’t hardly hesitate to skin, gut, and filet him

Contrast that with the picture she paints to the driving beat in  Temporal Dominoes:

He likes the smell of the incense / she likes her Indian food
The sweltering subway so intense / not a gesture is left unpursued
‘Cause they’re not in the mood to miss miracles
Culling their half-baked assumptions / paradigms toppling untried
Demolishing decades-old hunches / with their eyes all unraveled and wide
At the top of the tide / and nowhere to hide

One of the sweeter songs is Highway Five. Marian Call is from Alaska, and this is her ode to the Pacific Coast Highway:

This is my coast, this is my home, from San Diego up to Nome
Haven’t seen it all yet but I will
And I want to memorize it, every inch, want to remember where I’ve been
I bless these waves, I bless this wind, I bless this grace and all my sins

I love the “I’m okay the way I am” spirit behind Whistle While You Wait:

When it’s the first time you could get to West Hollywood and you’re slathered in sunscreen
And you drive really slow, so you know that they know that you’re another Joe with a dream
And you’re wearing your old secondhand blue jeans
And you keep turning your head at limousines
And everybody else looks so damn pretty
And you’re feelin’ extra grungy and extra indie
Oh it takes a little effort to hold your head up straight
To dress just like you want to, to whistle while you wait
It takes a little effort to not avert your eyes
To trust that you belong there — it might just be yourself that you surprise

The album opens with the happy vibe of Good Morning Moon:

Good morning Moon, love, how you doin’?
I’ve got business with you today
Good evening, Sun, I’ll see you soon
I wake on my own terms lately
Who’s to say we’re upside-down
Who’s to say we’re falling if we miss the ground
Who’s to say we’re going nowhere
If we like spinning ’round and ’round?

Musically, her vocals remind me a lot of Joni Mitchell circa Court & Spark. The arrangements are tight and the production is never over the top. I recommend this CD to anyone looking for intelligent songwriting and creative melodies. If you get the chance, check out her live act (her tour schedule is on her home page.) I saw her twice this year at Dragon*Con — at the Atlanta Skeptics party and again at the Parsec Awards. She brings humor and energy to her performances, at which she plays somewhat unusual percussion instruments (manual typewriter and rain stick.) I hope she makes the trip east to Dragon*Con every year.

Any other Marian Call fans out there? Chime in in the comments.

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55 Responses to Music Review: ‘Something Fierce’ by Marian Call

  1. Marian De Kleermaeker says:

    Great review! Love the attention to the lyrics, because they really are great and make th whole experience even more wonderful.
    Haven’t seen her live yet (live in Europe) but thanks to all her fans that contributed to the Kickstarter, I soon will! Yeah!

  2. Tim Dodge says:

    Marian,

    I agree! Thank you for reading my blog!

    Tim

  3. drunkcynic says:

    Great review, mate. I must add some words; praise for Marian Call. Blessed with grace and elegance grander than a violin suiting a small intimate affair, bursting with presence and energy befitting a heavenly choir, Something Fierce will leave all in an awestruck, wondrous state. This Alaskan non-native has poured forth her heart and soul, all contained within this greatly cherished lovechild. Give it a spin, become a fan, and wonder at its delay in finding your ears.

  4. mtgordon says:

    I listen to this a lot, often on repeat. She has great pipes and wonderful songs. Good for what ails you.

  5. Mandy Chronister says:

    That girl. She has quite a set of pipes, huh? I’d love to see her live in the future, and I regret not doing so when she was in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Just didn’t quite get there. Oh well. Still. She’s a favorite, and this venture, I know, will be a great win for her.

  6. Brian J. Geiger says:

    I try to see her at every opportunity. Her songs and tunes are exquisite, and her live abilities always astound. The new LP is well worth a listen, and, I think, is her best yet.

  7. Jen says:

    If you haven’t had the opportunity to see a live show, you need to try; she’s wonderful on stage and her sound is unbelievable in person. I first heard her sing while I was on a big ol’ ship with hundreds of nerds, and I was instantly hooked. Bought all her stuff right after that show and I play it over and over! Looking forward to new stuff!

  8. Quincy says:

    I could not imagine my musical life without Marian’s music! Meeting her on a geekerific boat cruise was even better! Jo-Co Cruise Crazy II 🙂

  9. Kevin Jackson says:

    I love her songs and delivery. Hers are tunes for the geek generation, spanning age and area. Buy her songs.

  10. Aaron Bass says:

    There was a span in life when I had not heard the wonderful “noise” that she brews with unyielding frenzy and apparent joy.

  11. Sara says:

    She sings of things–Serenity, love, geekiness–and always sweetly. Alaska is her state but she’s always on the road.

  12. David Lewis says:

    A great review of a great group of songs. I feel really happy that people are finally finding out about her – she deserves to have a huge following! The best song? “Te*poral Do*inoes” (sorry, today’s adventure quest rules) – although it’s not her usual fare, the energy just lifts one’s soul. If you want to understand where her head is at, “Whistle While You Wait” is a short autobiography as a song.

  13. Christine A says:

    Saw her in Ottawa at a nerd shoppe, and on a boat. Great songs, superb stylings. Hope Europe falls in love with her like I did this year.

  14. Amy says:

    I iz a huge fan! She is awesome!!! Saw her in NY & GA. The Firefly songs are faves, but “Highway Five” is soooo good too.

  15. Sarah says:

    These songs are total poetry — whether they’re funny or heartrending. I really love “All New (Heart Shut Tight)” and “E.S.B.” on the serious side.

    As everyone else will probably repeat: go see her live!!!

  16. Patrick Rose says:

    I must say that Marian’s live performances over here have been amazing. Plus, convinced her that I could open for her last night in Manchester. Yay me!

  17. Ewan says:

    We’ve hosted her three times now – two in New York, one in the UK – and all have been splendid. [Even the one song that I thought was a not-quite-hit, “Shark Week,” was being sung by the 4-year-old the entire following week, so..]

    A fixture in my stereo also. The fan-based approach is an extra glaze on the doughnut of her work :).

  18. Megan says:

    Lovely post! I try to listen to at least one of her songs every day. They speak to the soul: beautiful and haunting.

  19. Gary says:

    She is an amazing songstress. Bouncy, happy and full of heart only scratches the surface of her greatness. I have rarely heard a singer who emotes as much and entertains like our Alaskan girl.

  20. Nicole says:

    Marian can make complicated mental concepts emotionally comprehensible; musically catalyzing consonances among dissonances, poems amidst arguments, memorable choruses, thematic callbacks, carefully-crafted images admitting humanity’s collective, constant march approaching connection.

  21. Sarah Nelson says:

    I’ve seen her live in Boston and had tons of fun. Her shows are always great. And she loves sing-alongs! 🙂

  22. Kato Katonian says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her two times in person, and she is both a delightful person and great entertainer. If you have the opportunity to see her, do so, and don’t be afraid to stop and talk to her.

  23. Lee Daniels says:

    Seen her live x2 and both were brilliant. Truly a great singer, entertainer and geek. Working with her on the European Adventure has been an absolute blast. Friendships have been forged, adventures have been had and lives bettered.

    Thank you for letting us be part of this wonderful journey.

  24. Athene Numphe says:

    I love this songstress. I have been following her and her nerdy ways for a while now. I like to see her when she visits town, always a good show. Both her old and new songs are wonderful.

  25. Abbey says:

    A personal favorite: E.S.B. As a friend said, only this lady would write a better love song about beer than others ever do about people. Simply gorgeous!

  26. Rachel Weaver says:

    She leaves you wanting for her to never stop. I think to when I first heard her. Splendid, yes indeed!

  27. Herre says:

    Firefly led this poster to the tunes of this Alaskan artist. Together these things let this poster realise that he was a nerd and also that it is great to be a one. Looking forward to seeing her play live in the Netherlands very soon.

  28. R@100 says:

    She has really great songs, and her show in Prague was superb. I wish she was there longer than few days. Anyway, looking forward to another Europe tour.

  29. Julie Martinez says:

    I saw her perform in Boston and have been hooked on her tunes after that! One song is the absolute favorite out of what I own. Delightfully fun and pretty. Love everything she does!

  30. Erin H says:

    What a wonderful artist! I drove a few hours up to one of her shows last fall (alas I was gone when she was in Atlanta this year) and thoroughly enjoyed it. She pulls off witty and wistful well, and is so passionate.

  31. Stina says:

    I’ve loved witnessing this artist’s evolution. Her shows are always fulfilling and inspirational and full of laughter. Love both the serious and geeky sides of her songs. Faves: “faon’s song”, “perilous road”, “highway five”, and the first on the set for the astronaut is all of us!

  32. CraigM says:

    I love seeing Marian live and listening to her music. We don’t see as much of her in Anchorage since she moved to Juneau, but I’m sure they’re enjoying her presence.

    Looking forward to the re-release of “Something Fierce” less than two weeks!

  33. Kevin says:

    Just saw her in Harvard Square, right before her European tour started. Seventh show I’ve seen, I think. Her guitarist did a great opening set too. Always a pleasure.

  34. Marian De Kleermaeker says:

    Since my last replyt I have seen Marian perform live. What a great time that was! I love songs about Battlestar Galactica, Avocadoes and Jane Austen. I love them even more when sung live, and with Scott Barkan breaking strings.

  35. Tekla says:

    Marian’s music fills me with happiness. I have attended three concerts — last time Marian sang my request, which was awesome. Her lyrics are clever, funny, and insightful — simultaneously and in turns — and include accurate physics metaphors! Although I adore her marvelously geektastic earlier album, Something Fierce demonstrates Marian’s growth as a singer and composer since then.

    My favorite songs from this album are “Temporal Dominoes”, “Dear Mr. Darcy”, and “Faon’s Song”.

  36. She’s a truly gifted worker of words, and thoroughly engaging in a live show. I suggest to hell that you see her when she’s in your town.

  37. M says:

    When I run, I ensconce myself in Marian songs. Perilous Road remains a favorite. I glimpse underlying realities therein, despite confusing metanarratives.

  38. Vik says:

    I have loved Marian Call’s voice since I first heard her years ago. Her current album is amazing! Always great listening!

  39. Chino says:

    I watched her this year during W00tstock after hearing/reading about her. I only knew her Twitter handle and obviously did not know what to expect. After her first song, I was hooked. The rest of her set just got progressively better and by the time she ended, I was a fan for life. Her banter between songs also projected a very friendly and endearing personality that I adored.

  40. Chino says:

    I saw her this year in San Diego after only reading about her. I only knew her by her Twitter handle and obviously did not know what she was gonna play. But I was hooked after her first song in an instant. It probably was the typewriter or her wonderful singing, but I was drawn in right away. The rest of her set just got progressively better and when she ended, I was a fan for life. Her banter between songs also showed her as a very friendly and endearing personality that I adored.

  41. I have been endlessly astounded at this artist’s talent. Her songwriting skills have expanded to be deeper, resonant and full, and her sound delights with every note.

  42. Alexander says:

    She’s this geek’s favorite singer-songwriter for the reason that a lot of her poetry speaks to his sense-of-life in ways few poets do. Yet perhaps the best thing about attending a show by this geek bard is her people — that is, the geeks of the sort who enjoy her work.

  43. Spider42 says:

    heR MusIC ReMAINs ARguAbLy My fAvouRIte AMoNgst ALL todAys MusICAL ACts. Ms CALL ReINveNts whAt ReAL MusIC Is ANd RAIses bARs wheRe It CoNCeRNs tRuLy CReAtIve MusICALity.

  44. I first heard her songs online, and it took awhile before I really *got* it, but when I did, I wouldn’t stop listening. Finally got to go to a show in early 2011 (two shows, really.) Her stuff was even better in person! Especially “All New,” possibly the favorite song on the whole thing.

  45. frc5 says:

    A great review, and showing off great songs! I got hooked by her live show videos, and am still listening.

  46. Bill says:

    Entirely wonderful, I keep returning to these songs again and again. Definitely uplifting for those early drives into work. If you don’t investigate, you are a silly person.

  47. Michael Brown says:

    While new to her singing, I look forward to finding old and new tunes. Her talent shines through every one.

  48. Arjan K. says:

    It’s not fair. Visiting Europe for a few weeks and then returning to Juneau, leaving us here yearning for additional shows. Is it better to have seen and lost than never to have seen at all? Issing you already!

  49. Stephanie says:

    I adore that Marian speaks creatively about nerd things in such a moving way and it makes me smile, listening as I complete daily chores.

  50. Frissonic says:

    Haven’t seen her; however, as soon as she stops by Utah again, we’re there. My wife thoroughly enjoys her music … not as much as I.

    On a sad/happy note, when my friend owns a big diesel truck, which ran ill; a cam shaft blew or something. It caused him to wax lacrimal–an event that rarely occurs. During this moment when his mind was on a “cranial lam,” this man started sending his girlfriend carnal mail–each letter more explicit than the previous. No rhyme, no reason–simply let her know what was on his mind. Her heart melted after reading his letters. Dear girl helped him like a calm rain. LA, CA plane tickets were purchased. Together, hand in hand, our lovers meandered down a beach at sunset. The sky ran lilac. Am I to believe that I alone find this incredibly romantic? Touching? Endearing, even?!

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