Love Tracking the Kimya Dawson Renaissance
posted by January 22 at 9:44 AMon
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!)