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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tracking the Kimya Dawson Renaissance

posted by on January 22 at 9:44 AM


Thanks to the Juno soundtrack and her own singular talent, Kimya Dawson is suddenly and deservedly totally hot shit. (Here’s yesterday’s New York Times profile of Dawson, and here’s footage of yesterday’s Moldy Peaches reunion (!) on The View (!!).

This couldn’t make me happier. I’ve loved the lady’s work since 2001’s The Moldy Peaches, and my love only grew deeper as she began releasing her amazing solo recordings.

A couple years ago, Dawson and her family moved to the Northwest (first to Seattle, then to Olympia), which afforded me the opportunity to hype Dawson for a Stranger Genius Award in Literature (lyrics count, bitches):

The Genius Awards committee has been talking for years about including a songwriter in the writing category, but not until Kimya Dawson landed in the Northwest did we see reason to do it. A Dawson primer: After earning acclaim as one half of New York City’s antifolk superstars the Moldy Peaches, Dawson started making records of her own—adamantly lo-fi affairs showcasing her acoustic guitar and sweet, plain, conversational singing. The magic was in the lyrics: Moving past the Moldy Peaches’ witty goofs, Dawson dug deep, unearthing a kaleidoscopic torrent of words that jelled into songs that were unlike anything that had come before—simultaneously ridiculous and profound, childish and wise, shockingly personal and laugh-out-loud funny.

Dawson’s released five solo records since 2002; some are knockouts, some are negligible, all contain moments of singular brilliance (2004’s My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess remains her best approximation of a start-to-finish Great Album). She’s also unapologetically precious: love and hugs and silver-pink ponies are recurring motifs. But such diversions are deserved for a writer who so resolutely refuses to gloss over the ugliness of the world, and when she’s on her game—when the whimsy and horror are in perfect balance—she gets more accomplished in less space than any songwriter going. Here’s the refrain from “Anthrax”: “The air is filled with computers and carpets/Skin and bones and telephones and file cabinets/Coke machines, firemen, landing gear, and cement/They say that it’s okay but I say don’t breathe that shit in.”

Obviously, it’s about life in NYC following 9/11. In 2005, Dawson relocated from NYC to Seattle; last year, she and her family moved to Olympia. The Northwest is lucky to have her.

And now, thanks to a most wonderful collision of timing, art, and commerce, she suddenly belongs to the world. Call me a drama queen, but this gives me hope for humankind. In this rancid age of Britney, we need more cameras and microphones aimed at folks like Kimya Dawson. (Even if the images are hilariously mislabelled—thanks, Jezebel!)

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thanks for posting this i missed it on TV. i once saw the moldy peaches open for sleater-kinney in NYC.

Posted by xina | January 22, 2008 10:15 AM

Me and a friend went to New York a few years ago and one of the reasons was to play the open mic at the Sidewalk Cafe which is sort of an anti-folk mecca, or was, for those few years when the Moldy Peaches were a huge deal and the "New York Scene" was on everyones mind. It was amazing, 40+ musicians playing till dawn, and it gave me even more respect for Moldy Peaches and Kimya. They didn't play or anything, but to see how strong and unique that community is put their music in an even cooler context for me. She is so awesome and what a weird and fabulous world we live in where Whoopi Goldberg is introducing them on national daytime TV. Soaring pride!

Posted by Pecknold | January 22, 2008 11:22 AM

yes! i saw kimya at the sidewalk last year for a sort-of homecoming; it was packed with one of the most positive and supportive groups of people i've ever watched a concert with. she's totally contagious.

seeing those pictures of the moldy peaches framed on the wall makes your realize how much impact they really have had. nobody deserves this hype more than kimya dawson.

(side note: does anyone know if she's recorded that song that mentions rehab in tacoma? i've heard her play it twice now but haven't found it on an album. hometown representing aside it's a fucking great song)

Posted by molly hamilton | January 22, 2008 1:25 PM

a perfect example of wonderful things happening to wonderful people.



Posted by ashley | January 22, 2008 3:19 PM

Man, Kimya back in the day used to kick it with us in Port Townsend- FREE moldy peaches shows weekly. It was awesome. I hope she gets a genius award. Her little girl Panda is cute as shit too. Yay Kimya!

Posted by catnextdoor in albuquerque | January 22, 2008 4:15 PM

Kimya is a wonderful human being. It's great to see her suddenly find this larger audience, but the bigger story is how she's handling it with such integrity, staying true to her values, sticking with K records, still playing houseshows, still treating every fan like a friend.

Posted by Kevin Erickson | January 22, 2008 5:09 PM

Cat@5, are you from PT? That's one of my old stomping grounds too. Lots of time around the original Boiler Room circa 95-97. I recall meeting Kimya there as well, through the Commonses.

Posted by Gabriel | January 22, 2008 5:24 PM

YES, I am a PT native. The Boiler Room was my first "job" back in the old basement space. We'd probably know one another if we saw each other on the street. God damn PT curse. In ABQ I still see random people from PT.... you can run but you cant hide. And if you know the three boys I'm sure we'd recognize each other.

Posted by catnextdoor in albuquerque | January 22, 2008 11:38 PM

Yeah, I worked in the Boiler Room basement space too for a couple of years. I'm sure we would recognize each other then. I grew up between PT and Sequim.

Posted by Gabriel | January 23, 2008 11:09 AM

creepy PT lives on!

Posted by catnextdoor in albuquerque | January 23, 2008 5:31 PM

My old roomie brought Kimya over to visit once sometime in 1997. She ended up sleeping on my couch for two weeks. Next time I saw her after that was in an article in Spin. Weird.

Posted by Potatoes O'Brien | January 23, 2008 6:31 PM

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