Posts Tagged ‘Mark Lanegan’

There’s something about Mirel Wagner’s music that scares the hell out of me.  I don’t say that lightly, because I don’t scare easily.  Sure, there was a brief period where my house creeped me out before the unexplained noises suddenly went away, but as far as books, TV, and music go, I’m not bothered by much.  Unless someone gets beyond the obvious, external trappings of horror and really puts a finger on a different way of thinking. Then things get scary.

Wagner’s music goes to dark places and doesn’t flinch. It even exhibits a playful streak when its narrators describe the very bad things they’ve done or have had done to them.  Imagine Nick Cave but without the bombast or theatrics, Mark Lanegan without the ferryman’s rasp, or acoustic death blues taken to their logical extreme.  Plenty of people might write a murder ballad, but few would go on to imagine what might happen if the narrator never got rid of the body.

Wagner’s songs often feature just her on acoustic guitar with very few, if any, embellishments.  Taken in one full listen, Wagner’s albums can have just a touch of sameness, and some songs don’t reach the same heights/depths as others.  Taken in bits and pieces, though, which may be all some listeners can do given the subject matter, this is often harrowing stuff.

Right now, I’m most struck by the two songs below: “No Death” (from her self-titled debut) and “1, 2, 3, 4” (from her newest, When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day).  It’s Halloween mix-making time, and one of those will definitely be a centerpiece this year.  But also getting a lot of play are “Oak Tree” (told in the voice of someone buried at the base of the tree) and “Red” (about a demonic dance partner).  I’m sure as time goes on, repeated listens to both albums will reveal other songs that insinuate themselves just as well, like dark moonlit vines snaking their way into your skull.

Mirel Wagner, “No Death”


Mirel Wagner, “1, 2, 3, 4”


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Mark Lanegan has one of those voices: weathered, gritty, and sepulchral. He sounds like the world’s sexiest cryptkeeper.  I don’t know how you create a voice like that. If I tried to give myself that voice, I’d adopt a whiskey and cigarettes diet, but I’d probably come out sounding like a congested bridge troll.  Some people are just touched by the sandpaper-voiced gods.

His list of collaborations is impressive: After starting out with ’90s Seattle mainstays The Screaming Trees and then establishing his solo career, Lanegan then went on to work with Queens of the Stone Age (who may have more of a direct influence on his current sound than anyone), Isobel Campbell, the Soulsavers, the Gutter Twins, and the Twilight Singers (those last two with Afghan Whigs lead singer/lothario Greg Dulli). Wherever he goes, he gives things an air of laconic menace.

The first video off his most recent record, Blues Funeral, is for “The Gravedigger’s Song.” Directed by Alistair Legrand, it’s a real creepy spookfest.

Blues Funeral is awesome, even if I think it loses a little of its energy in the second half.  That first half, though … hooboy! It’s rare that four or five back-to-back songs pack a better punch.  As a bonus, here’s a 4AD session of Lanegan tearing through the record’s first half in classic style:

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