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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

June 10, 2004
One of the intrinsic problems with most avid followers of any pursuit is that, with time, it becomes increasingly easy to get lost in that pursuit. Take music, for example. As a listener's collection grows their tastes invariably change, leading them in new directions. After a time, from the remote vantage point at which they have arrived, it becomes difficult to look back and see all the details of the musical landscape across which they have come. As new music comes into focus, old favorites are forgotten. The same is true for any pursuit, be it books or film, and it is perhaps only the joy of rediscovery that outweighs new discoveries in sheer thrill factor. This column is dedicated to all of those past infatuations, those forgotten favorites from which we can still, if we remember, derive so much pleasure.

---
AUDIO

ARTIST: Mary Margaret O'Hara
TITLE: Miss America
LABEL: Virgin/Koch Records
RELEASED: 1988
RE-RELEASED: 1995

Imagine if artists like Renoir, Van Gogh or Dali created one remarkable masterwork and declared, "That's all I have to say." Mary Margaret O'Hara's Miss America makes a similar statement, as it is her definitive work, and, beyond appearances on soundtracks, tributes and collaborations, remains her singularly striking labor of love.

It is a treasure for us, then, to be able to bask in all of this for its rarity and beauty. It is a blessing that her solitary creation is so perfect, just as it is. Conversely, the album feels almost criminally overlooked - largely due to its hard-to-find status before re-release and its staggering critical-over-commercial success.

If you count yourself among those who truly love music for all its craft, seeking out innovation and importance, consider this release a necessity. Mary Margaret, while often inextricably attached to her famous relatives, is an artist in every right. Miss America will never be "just another album": it is more of an experience, a master's finished canvas.

We begin with the heartbreaking "To Cry About," a stunning piece of suffering, shattered ambiance. When forcing high and low notes upon a former lover, declaring he "give[s] her something to cry about," you almost assuredly shiver. So much of her pain sounds like a wounded animal, undeniable and sharply reactant. She has been beaten by her owner, and yet she loves.

"Year In Song" takes this distinction to a new level - as she grumbles and shrieks a primal yowl of "I'm not ready to go under!", it feels as though an overpowering hand is attempting to drown her. There has rarely ever been a recorded sound so fearfully desperate as this plea for life. One might want to dismiss her audacity as starkly Appalachian, or even schizophrenic, but it is so much more than that - it is brutal and magnificent, to be sure.

Though O'Hara enlisted the highly regarded experimental guitarist, Michael Brook, for her accompanist, there are several songs where the background melody could be anything at all - the focal point is always the fractured rantings of Mary Margaret, and the rest seems of little consequence. 

On her jazziest or most conventional pieces, however, instruments enhance the warmth and sincerity of her sentiment. "Keeping You In Mind" could be sung over flickering candlelight, knees crossed upon a glossy grand piano, while the nearly a cappella "You Will Be Loved Again" could appear under a suicide scene in a David Lynch film. Both are lovely, ironic and honest, brightened by the sheer originality and conviction of this emotive chanteuse. If anything, Ms. O'Hara is absolutely stirring.

Each track shifts subtly and completely - a lifted eyebrow or an eye cast toward the sun can make all the difference. Whether basking in the sunny optimism of "Anew Day" or the crushed empathy of "You Will Be Loved Again," there is a wealth of hope that shines through her utmost honesty. When one can be so bold and broken, yet rise to greatness through it all, it says a lot about the human condition. Mary Margaret O'Hara is a pillar of strength, but only through her flawless vulnerability.

--
Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other articles by Sarah Peters.

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